The website of the Oxford English Dictionary–known by English majors and other students of the language as the “OED”–recently announced the latest additions to this most prestigious, authoritative, and comprehensive of all English dictionaries. Some of the entries might suprise you.
These initialisms made it in:
–OMG (“Oh my God” or “Oh my Gosh”)–which was actually first used in 1917
–LOL (“Laughing out loud”)–which used to mean “little old lady”
–IMHO (“In my humble opinion”)
–TMI (“Too much information”)
–BFF (“Best friends forever”)
–FYI (“For your information”)
And so did these terms:
–la-la land (can refer to Los Angeles, the state of being out of touch with reality, or both)
–happy camper (someone who is thoroughly happy and satisfied–but usually used in the phrase “not a happy camper”)
–dotted line (an indirect reporting relationship)
–dot-bomb (a failed Internet company)
–smack talking (competitive boasting or criticizing)
–heart (as a verb, as in “I heart New York”; may take the form of the heart symbol instead)
Of course, that doesn’t mean that our students can now use such terminology indiscriminately. But it does make the use of slang and colloquialisms even more important to talk about in class.
For example, we can discuss in what circumstances it would and would not be appropriate to use these neologisms. “The intention is usually to signal an informal, gossipy mode of expression, . . . while at the same time marking oneself as an ‘insider,'” as the OED editors remark. But such expressions can signal a lack of professionalism, can presume too familiar a relationship, and can exclude those (such as certain nonnative speakers) who are unfamiliar with such expressions.
Discussions like this can also heighten students’ awareness that language conventions are not fixed but, instead, ever changing. Come to think of it, we bcomm teachers can use occasional reminders of this fact as well.